The story behind every Slipknot album cover

Slipknot’s imagery is just as essential to their success as their music. Of course, as they do, they were always going to be stars: their roaring nu metal, backed by three percussionists, demands to be heard. But the two boosters to Rocket’s success were those masks — hideous and enigmatic — and the art direction of co-lead Shawn “Clown” Crahan.

To celebrate the release of Slipknot’s seventh album The end so farrejoin Hammer on a tour through the artwork of every album the scoundrel has ever made.

Metal hammer line cut

slipknot: slipknot

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

Slipknot (1999)

The bands spent thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours fine-tuning the album cover to the finest detail. However, when you look like Slipknot, you don’t need to worry about the finest paint job to make an impact. Just a picture of you will freak anyone out.

The photo of The Nine on the cover of the greatest debut album in metal history was taken by Stefan Seskis. The photographer was already pals with the band, having snapped the cover of their 1996 Comrade. Feed. Kill. Repeat. demo. He would go on to get even more work from them by doing Iowaas good as heretical hymn and Left over simple. You can see another photo of him on the cover of Clown’s short-lived alt-rock project’s only album, To My Surprise.

The programming on the Noose The cover is the classic nine-piece that would exist until Paul Gray’s death in 2010, though one of the masks might seem unfamiliar: Jim Root doesn’t yet have his iconic jester face. Because he was a last minute addition to the group, joining during the recording of their debut, he simply wore a black gimp mask.

“I ended up wearing a bondage hood that was too small for my head,” the guitarist recalled in a 2014 Google Play interview, “so my sweat was filling the inside of that thing and my ears were under the water. I couldn’t move and it pushed my jaw back. It was extremely uncomfortable.


Iowa (2001)

Slipknot - Iowa

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

No one knows why there’s a goat on the cover of Slipknot’s second album, Iowa. In other words, no one except Clown – and he seems to like it. In a 2021 interview with Hammer, the co-founder and personalized percussionist of The Nine said, “The cover contains many symbolic and metaphorical solutions for everyone in our culture. I didn’t really explain it. It’s for the end times to put the whole picture together, so I won’t go into detail.

Here’s what we know. The goat is called Eeyore: a name she shares with the hidden trail tagged at the end of Scissors, the latest song from Slipknot. And we know Clown really wanted this to be Iowa’s work of art.

“My mentor who got me into photography, Stefan Seskis, he shot the cover for the first album,” Clown continued in the same Hammer interview. “I came up with the concept and I wanted to shoot the cover for the second album so badly, and I just couldn’t do it. One day, I handed him the goat.

The goat became the band’s mascot during and after the Iowa cycle. One appears in the Left over video, and others have since appeared on the band’s jumpsuits and merchandise. Additionally – on August 28, 2001, the day the album was released – sixteen UK record shops opened at midnight and offered free copies to anyone rocking a live goat.

A decade later, the tenth anniversary reissue of Iowa gave the album a visual overhaul, using another photograph from the same shoot as the original. This time it was a side view of a goat’s head hanging from a wall by its horns: gruesome enough stuff for Knot’s darkest production to date.


Flight. 3: The Subliminal Verses (2004)

Slipknot - Vol.  3

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

Burnout, industry pressure and several members struggling with addiction meant the Iowa the sessions almost tore Slipknot apart. The Nine needed a break from the cycle, so Corey Taylor and Jim Root reformed Stone Sour, Joey Jordison co-founded the Murderdolls, and Sid Wilson resurrected his DJ Starscream persona.

When they got together to Flight. 3: Subliminal verses and gradually stopped wanting to kill each other, the group set out to have their new cover present them as a united front again. Clown wrote in a blog post in 2009: “When I was working on Flight. 3, there was a theme that I had to understand. Back then, we were in a really weird place together as a band. We were coming together and rehabilitating after the hellish cycle in Iowa. So I kept asking myself, “What binds us together? And the answer has always been our fans. We wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for our fans.

What Clown invented was the “fly mask”: a new leather mask named after what Slipknot calls their fanbase, unifying the band and their audience. It’s the same spirit that led Flight. 3 song Pulse of Maggotsa hymn dedicated to their acolytes.

Much like the Iowa goat, the maggot mask has become a recurring symbol in the Slipknot universe. Replicas were released as merchandising and unsurprisingly sold well, while the authentic item reappears in the music video for Vermilion. In it, a woman puts on the mask and is immediately confronted by the group, with whom she then dances. It’s the only human interaction she enjoys in the entire clip, reinforcing how much Slipknot loves her fans. They really are the most wholesome gang of faceless, baseball bat-wielding arsonists you’ll ever meet.


All Hope is Gone (2008)

Slipknot: All Hope is Gone

(Image credit: Roadrunner)

Slipknot returned home to record what would be their final album as The Nine. Before All hope is lostthe group had never tracked in their native land of Iowa, with each album instead being made in California. The decision to make music on the most familiar ground possible has, in hindsight, been controversial within the band.

In a 2015 strong wire interview, Corey said, “It was good to be in Iowa. […] Coming home and becoming a father every night was really, really rewarding. Clown, on the other hand, said in 2014: “It’s my least favorite [Slipknot album]: no tension, no pain – just efficiency. Being able to go home, being able to sleep, that’s not good, not for what we’re doing.

Nevertheless, for All hope is lostThe cover of The ‘Knot chose to visualize the rural location in which they were creating. The isolation is palpable in the photo of the group standing in a grassy field that stretches almost as far as the eye can see. The artwork for the tenth anniversary re-release differs somewhat, featuring nine massive-headed figures in a downed cornfield: a raised shot of the Psychosocial video.

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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